My picks for the Women’s Prize shortlist, out tomorrow, are proof positive that Patricia and I have divergent tastes when it comes to fiction.
Her first two picks — The Innocents and Flight Behavior — are two of my least favourites on the long list. I thought The Innocents was maudlin and overwraught, and I was so disappointed with Barbara Kingsolver’s pedantic turn with the heavy-handed Flight Behavior.
I’ll also add that, unlike Patricia, I will probably tear my hair out if Bring Up the Bodies and The Marlowe Papers land the shortlist tomorrow. There is nothing I’d like to read less than dense historical English fiction with thick colloquial language, or, even worse, actual verse. Ew.
Instead, these are the titles I’d like to see on the shortlist tomorrow:
Where’d You Go Bernadette, by Maria Semple: I can’t help but evangelize this smart, heart-warming and laugh-out-loud hilarious send-up of Seattle upper-middle-classdom. I also met Maria Semple at the King County Library System’s Literary Lions Gala, and she was delightful, charming and super friendly.
How Should a Person Be?, by Sheila Heti, is not for everyone. Many have called it shallow and pretentious. I can understand how the psuedo-novel/memoir might be perceived as such. But if you assume Heti’s affectations are self-aware and tongue-in-cheek, the book offers a dimensional, funny and honest look at identity, art and friendship in contemporary 20/30s-something culture.
The only book Patricia and I agree with for the shortlist is Alif the Unseen, by G. Willow Wilson. I would never have picked up this techno thriller-meets-mystic Middle Eastern fable if it hadn’t been on the longlist. But I’m so glad I did. I’ve never read anything like it, and couldn’t put it down. What a wonderful story!
I have yet to read The Red Book, by Deborah Copaken Kogan, but the story of a group of Harvard College roommates 20 years post-graduation sounds right up my alley.
NW, by Zadie Smith, is not necessarily my favourite Zadie Smith novel, but what a novel it is.
And how cool would it be for Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn, to end up on the shortlist? I’m not saying it should win, and yes it is quite mainstream, commercial fiction. But damn, Flynn is an amazing writer and storyteller. And honestly, I haven’t met a single person who read Gone Girl who didn’t love it.
Stay tuned for the shortlist announcement tomorrow morning. We’ll post something about it ASAP.